Workers of the Nigerian Postal Service on Thursday staged a protest at the headquarters of the Ministry of Finance over the plan by the Federal Government to cede stamp duty collection to the Federal Inland Revenue Service.
The workers who were led on the protest by the leadership of the Senior Staff Association of Statutory Corporations and Government Owned Companies shut the premises of the ministry for over an hour.
Their protest which coincided with the public presentation of the 2020 budget at the main auditorium of the ministry of finance prevented some guests and other dignitaries from entering or exiting the ministry.
Top government officials who had attended the public presentation of the budget were also prevented from leaving the premises of the ministry.
The workers insisted that the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, must address them at the gate on why the collection of stamp duty was being moved away from the mandate of NIPOST.
After the dignitaries were held for over 30 minutes, the finance minister came to appeal to the workers to present their case to her through a proposal.
The action of the workers who were carrying placards with various inscriptions led to a long stretch of traffic on the busy Ahmadu Bello Way where the ministry of finance is located.
The current amendment to the Stamp Duty Act by the National Assembly, according to the workers, is being done to allow the FIRS to be the agency collecting stamp duty on electronic transactions.
This, they noted, would negate the practice over the years where stamp duty was collected by NIPOST.
The Secretary-General of the union, Ayo Olorunfemi, said, “Our attention has been drawn to the renewed attempt by the minister of finance to take over the stamp duty aspect of the NIPOST function and transfer same to Federal Inland Revenue.
“Her major reason is that since the stamp is used to denote receipts, transactions and other documents, it is a tax and her agency must take it over.
“The minister had used her strength in the area of lobbying to get the House of Representatives to pass the bill.
“The action of the minister is unfortunate, inimical to the ideals preached by this administration and if not checked, is capable of causing inter-agency disunity or unhealthy rivalry even now when all hands must be on deck to uplift the nation.”
He said the union was particularly surprised that the finance minister was planning to take over a mandate that was globally assigned to postal services.
“From the argument of the minister, it follows that if stamp duty is a form of taxation, its collection should be ceded to the FIRS.
“If we permit the evil as being perpetrated, the roles of Customs service, Nigerian Ports Authority, Standards Organisation of Nigeria and all revenue collecting agencies will eventually be ceded to the FIRS under the highly powerful minister of finance,” he added.
He said NIPOST has the mandate under the existing law to produce stamp, and sell same for both postage and duty purposes.
Olorunfemi said a migration from physical or adhesive stamp to electronic stamping could never lead to change of ownership.